Craig left the stage for the Quartet to play Mozart’s ‘Hunt’ Quartet. This was played con amore, but using a surprisingly wide dynamic range, no effete chocolate-box Mozart here. The composer was a viola-player and wrote lovingly for the instrument; violist Eion Schmidt-Martin made the most of his part as did violinist Matthew Denton whose beautiful tone and fine musicianship led the ensemble.
Then came Craig’s solo spot. He talked engagingly about the pitfalls for non-guitarists such as Walton of writing for his instrument and then gave a marvellous performance of the typically characterful and lively-minded Five Bagatelles to show how brilliantly the composer had responded to the challenge. For this he sat front-stage, his un-plugged sound projecting fully.
Joined by the quartet he returned to his position at the rear, and now using discreet amplification could make a full contribution to the ensemble, something visiting harpsichordists could well emulate! The Guitar Quintet written in 1950 by American émigré composer Castelnuovo-Tedesco is not regular repertoire and the quartet had to learn it specially for this concert. This ‘modern-music-without-tears’ deserves to be better known and these players’ advocacy should surely aid the process. It’s beautifully crafted, all five players sharing the limelight, giving second violin Michelle Fleming a chance to shine. The unexpected vociferous audience response elicited a hastily contrived Fandango encore.
Finally, spare a thought for the pressured lives these young players lead. I encountered the cellist after the concert; off to her car for a four-hour drive home and the school-run in the morning. Such resilience!